William Kelly Major Works Commentary
And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.Leviticus Chapter 5
THE SIN (TRESPASS) OFFERING.
This section, it may be observed, is a sort of appendix to Lev. 4, and of transition to the proper Trespass offering which begins in Leviticus 5:14. For this reason, while it falls under the same revelation from Jehovah to Moses as the chapter before, it is called both a Trespass offering and a Sin offering in ver. 6. Four distinctions in the circumstances calling for the offering are laid down in the four opening verses. They were defilements incurred by special inadvertent offences against ordinances of Jehovah; as in Lev. 4 provision was made for inadvertent sins in general which simply violated the conscience.
"And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of an oath, and he is a witness whether he hath seen or known, if he do not inform, then he shall bear his iniquity. Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be the carcase of an unclean beast, or the carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and it be hid from him, he also is unclean and guilty. Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, any uncleanness of him by which he is defiled, and it be hid from him, when he knoweth, then he shall be guilty. Or if a soul swear rashly with his lips, to do evil or to do good, in everything that a man shall say rashly with an oath, and it be hid from him, when he knoweth, then shall he be guilty in one of these. sand it shall be when he shall be guilty in one of these, that he shall confess wherein he hath sinned; and he shall bring his trespass to Jehovah for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him from his sin" (vers. 1-6).
Adjuration was all the more solemn for an Israelite, as Jehovah dwelt in their midst to judge. It was not secret providence, or waiting for a final assize. He was there to deal according to His law and their relationship as His people. Even in a day of utter ruin and in proceedings which mocked all righteousness, we hear our Lord, silent before man's profound hypocrisy and false witness, at once answer the wicked high priest when adjuring Him, though He knew it would seal His condemnation unto death. Did one shrink and keep back or prevaricate, one must bear one's iniquity if left there. Then came cases of defilement from contact with death, either unclean beasts or cattle, or crawling things, or again from uncleanness of man, whatsoever its form. Lastly, there might be defilement from a hasty vow unperformed, it mattered not what its shape, "to do evil or to do good," which on reflection one shirked, dreading to do or not to do. Think of Jephthah's vow!
What then was he that feared God in such circumstances to feel, when it comes before his soul? Was he not guilty? If in any of these cases he was defiled, he was called on to "confess wherein he hath sinned," not after a vague general sort. It is the first time we hear of it. Was it not due to carelessness before Jehovah? But more; nothing but sacrifice could remove the stain. "And he shall bring his trespass offering to Jehovah for his sin which he hath sinned." What more specific for the clearing his guilt away? Here, as in the Sin offering for one of the people, a female sufficed, lamb or goat, and was called an offering for trespass and sin; and the priest should make atonement for him to clear him from his sin.
The tender consideration of the poor (to us the young or feeble in faith) is marked in the alternative that is next given.
And if his hand be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring to Jehovah for his trespass which he hath sinned two turtle-doves or two young pigeons; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering. And he shall bring them to the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and pinch off its head at the neck, but shall not divide it asunder; and he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering on the wall of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar. And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering according to the ordinance. And the priest shall make atonement for him from his sin which he hath sinned; and it shall be forgiven him" (vers. 7-10).
Jehovah was even more minute in His concern for him who could not bring a sheep or goat. The victim's blood was sprinkled unusually, or at least there is a fuller expression given to it. The offering of less pecuniary value He prized for the conscientious soul, and gave a witness of acceptance as well as of sin judged and gone.
The same principle is yet more conspicuous in a third case.
"But if his hand cannot attain to two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then he that hath sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil on it, nor shall he put frankincense thereon, for it is a sin offering. And he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it, the memorial thereof and burn it on the altar with Jehovah's fire offering: it is a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him from his sin which he hath sinned in one of them, and it shall be forgiven him; and it shall be the priest's as the oblation" (vers. 11-13).
Here we have the most abject need of all: even pigeons are beyond the means. But grace has its resource for the least condition of faith. His pity was shown, not in dispensing with an offering, but in suiting the need. Though no part of this form of the offering could have the character of Burnt offering like the second bird, Jehovah would accept an offering of fine flour. But unlike the oblation proper, neither oil nor frankincense must be there. It was for sin. The quantity was just that of the manna for a day's food. Of this the priest took his handful to burn according to the Fire offerings to Jehovah, though for one ceremonially unclean; and as this was valid to atone, so the rest became the priest's as in the ordinary oblation of meal. Truly God was good to Israel, even to such as owned their uncleanness in the humblest way He prescribed.
Here again, as has been already noticed elsewhere, the lowest form of an offering passes from its proper distinctness into assimilation with others: in the second alternative, with the Burnt offering; in the third with the Meal offering. The stronger the faith, the less can one relish vague apprehension of Christ's work: one seeks, cherishes, and enjoys God's side as well as our own in the fulness of divine revelation. The weaker it is, the more one is disposed to be content with a view so misty that the wondrous and instructive differences in its manifold relations vanish in a comprehensive but hazy sense of efficacy. The value of Christ is the same to God, whatever shape the offering might take in God's condescension. The absence of blood-shedding in the last instance is just the exception which proves the rule. Jehovah testifies His consideration for such poverty as could bring no animal to die, where there was real concern about the trespass and an offering to Him in acknowledgement of it.
THE TRESPASS OFFERING.
A fresh intimation from Jehovah introduces the proper Trespass offering.
"And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, If any one commit a perfidy, and sin inadvertently in the holy things of Jehovah, then he shall bring his trespass offering to Jehovah, a ram without blemish out of the flock, according to thine estimation by shekels of silver after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering. And he shall make restitution for what he hath done amiss in [lit. from] the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering; and it shall be forgiven him" (vers. 14-16).
We may discern another shade of evil met in the Trespass offering as compared with the more general and public one for sin. The word for the latter is chata which literally signifies departure from right; whereas asham which is translated trespass expresses guilt. It was an act of treachery (maal) in the holy things of Jehovah, though supposed to be done not presumptuously but through inadvertence. Still, though not a moral wrong before the eyes of others, it was a secret perfidy against Him with Whom they stood in holy relationship, and guilt was contracted thereby.
Hence for one who had failed thus in his responsibility a ram without blemish was required in every case. Compare also Leviticus 19:20-22, where the offence, though morally wrong also, is viewed as guilt against Jehovah, and the ram of atonement was required as in Numbers 5:5-10, where, as in Num. 6, as a modified case, a lamb was offered. We shall see appended to this first instance an added provision in vers. 17-19; but there is no difference allowed in the victim Jehovah required. A new ordinance follows which in the English is so strangely relegated to Lev. 6, but in the Hebrew text continues the fifth chapter as vers. 20-26, and treats of a trespass done to a neighbour, a failure in responsibility which Jehovah counted an act of treachery against Himself; but there also an unblemished ram must be brought by the guilty soul. We may and surely ought to enquire why this animal and no other was suitable to meet the occasion.
Now, in setting apart Aaron and his sons to Jehovah for their priestly place and functions, we know that a ram of consecration had its distinctive importance. There were indeed two rams, one of which was for an olah or Burnt offering, that followed the bullock slaughtered for a Sin offering. But the special feature of that rite was the second ram, the ram of consecration, the blood of which was not only sprinkled like that of the first ram on the altar round about, but, before that, Moses was directed to put of it, first on the tip of Aaron's right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot, and then on those of his sons also.
The ram accordingly was the fitting animal to offer for the inverse question of desecration; and such was just the aspect of evil which was met in the Trespass offering. It was not simple wrong for which the Sin offering was provided, but treachery in relation to Jehovah. And this is confirmed (ver. 15) by Moses' "estimation in silver by shekels after the shekel of the sanctuary." For as gold typifies divine righteousness in God's presence, silver figures His grace rather, as we may see in the atonement money for the children of Israel, and indeed wherever it appears.
There was another element distinctive of the Trespass or Guilt offering. "He shall make restitution for what he hath done amiss in the holy thing." More than this; as Jehovah commanded the tithe of the Israelite's increase as blessed of Him, so He demanded as the fine of the Trespass offering the fifth part, or a double tithe. All this was to go to the priest; which again keeps up the relative character already seen. "And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering; and it shall be forgiven him."
The appendix which follows adds words even more precise as to ignorance and worthy of all attention.
"And if any one sin or do against any of all the commandments of Jehovah what should not be done, and hath not known, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock according to thine estimation for a trespass offering unto the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his inadvertence wherein he sinned inadvertently, and knew it not; and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering: he is certainly guilty before Jehovah" (vers. 17-19).
Here while inadvertence is stated plainly, the case goes beyond this. But though the ram was the normal victim required for this character of evil, the demand was modified where the ritual failure differed. Thus for the leper's cleansing (Lev. 14) a lamb was to be offered as a Trespass offering, and the priest put its blood on the person of him that was being cleansed, as Moses did on Aaron and his sons on the day of their consecration, where the oil followed the blood (vers. 12- 18). Then came the Sin offering (ver. 19), and after it the Burnt offering. Thus the distinction of Trespass and Sin is made clear, whatever be the "great controversy" as to the difference among theologians, and the uncertainty of their sound to this day. And it is intelligible why in the consecration of the priests the Sin offering (whether bullock or calf) was brought, but no Trespass offering, any more than on Atonement Day, the tenth of the seventh month.
We may see too, in the visions of God vouchsafed to Ezekiel of the coming kingdom on the earth, there is provision for the Burnt offering, the Sin offering, the Trespass offering, and the sacrifice of the Oblation (Ezekiel 40:38; Eze 40:42; Ezekiel 42:13; Ezekiel 44:29). The Epistle to the Hebrews is in no way at issue; for it treats of the abolition of these shadows for the Christian only. Vain self-sufficiency denies the future hopes of Israel in Jehovah's mercy, and, counting itself the sole object of grace, seeks the exaltation proper to Israel, and loses its own special privileges of suffering with Christ while awaiting glory on high.
It is distinctly laid down that, though the person in question "hath not known, yet is he guilty." Jehovah would exercise His people in the sense of what was due to His relationship and their privilege who had the sign of His presence in their midst. He would have them read or hear His word with serious spirit and submissive heart. It was no matter of conscience, or of open immorality, such as the Sin offering was prescribed for; but perfidy in respect of those commandments of Jehovah in their favoured position toward Him.
Hence the necessity of diligent heed to His statutes and judgments. Ignorance was no tenable excuse. They were Israelites, and Jehovah had imposed commandments with which they were responsible to comply. If any one did not know, yet was he guilty. Indifference to His requirements must have been the antecedent state; and what is this in His eyes? What did it detect in the Israelite? Was Jehovah to be blind, because he failed to know what was plainly written in His law, though not in the ten words? He was guilty, and must bear his iniquity (avon). Therefore was he to bring an unblemished ram from the sheep according to Moses' estimation for a Trespass offering unto the priest. Neither inadvertence nor ignorance availed to screen his guilt or do away with the offering indispensable for it. But it should be forgiven him that thus offered. Even with greater energy is the language here, "It is a trespass offering: trespassing he trespassed before Jehovah." Man otherwise might have readily excused it.
Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be unclean, and guilty.
Or if he touch the uncleanness of man, whatsoever uncleanness it be that a man shall be defiled withal, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty.
Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these.
And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.
And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off his head from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder:
And he shall sprinkle of the blood of the sin offering upon the side of the altar; and the rest of the blood shall be wrung out at the bottom of the altar: it is a sin offering.
And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.
But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.
Then shall he bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take his handful of it, even a memorial thereof, and burn it on the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: it is a sin offering.
And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest's, as a meat offering.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the LORD; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering:
And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.
And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.
And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him.
It is a trespass offering: he hath certainly trespassed against the LORD.